Giving in to Network Effects

In my first Fediverse notes, I mused that I'd choose a larger community if I had to choose again.

Well, after watching the Fediverse for a little while, I figured that while I may not actually have to choose again, I really want to. My old community,, had about 650 profiles that had posted 4500 toots between them. This undoubtedely counts as small, and that has the double effect that not terribly many toots are coming in on the federated feed (I can't bring myself to write “timeline”) because people on the instance don't follow too many others, and that toots I produce don't get distributed very far because there are not many instances with people following someone on that small instance. A double negative network effect.

This is particularly unwelcome when globally searching for hashtags (as I did last Sunday when I thought the local elections in Saarland might reflect in the Fediverse). Sure, I can help fix that by starting to follow accounts from other instances, but that's a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing, since in my own instance's feeds I don't even see those other accounts. Perhaps sitting on the public feed of the “flagship” instance ( has about 640'000 profiles) for a while might have helped.

Fediverse relays are a honking great idea.

But it also felt odd to be behind the most active profile on that instance, and so I decided to compromise. That is, I don't give in to the pressures of the network effect altogether. I am therefore not switching to the flagship instance (which does feel a bit central-ish). But I am switching to, which boasts 2600 users (a factor of 4 over my old instance) with 150'000 posts (a factor of 30) between them. Plus, it uses a “relay“ that somewhat mitigates the problem outlined above by essentially creating a sub-federation of smaller instances exchanging public toots regardless of whether people on them follow each other.

So, I made the move today.

It is nice that Mastodon has built-in support for moving; there is an “Import and Export” item in the settings menu that guides one reasonably clearly through the process and transfers the followers (small deal on my profile at the moment). It is then that it gets a little lame.

You see, I'd have expected that when I get an archive of my profile under “Export” I ought to be able to import it again under the new profile's “Import”. But that is not how it works; it seems the downloaded archive cannot be uploaded, and whatever is in there is either lost (the toots) or needs to be manually restored (profile pictures). Instead, what can be uploaded are CSVs of followed people, block lists and the like. And these are not in the archive one downloads but need to be downloaded from the old profile and re-uploaded to the new profile one by one.

Is this really the way it's supposed to be? Have I missed something?

Ok, one doesn't move every day, but if I keep being a Fedinaut, I will probably move again one day – to my own instance. It would be nice if by then there were smoother migration paths.

Kategorie: edv